Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains Association picked up FAB

I am thrilled to let the world know that the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) picked up  my book,

Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South.

Swain County Visitor Center

You know GSMA as the park partner which manages the bookstores in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Surely you’ve stopped at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Sugarlands, or maybe, at the Swain County Visitor Center to buy a book, honey or a T-shirt. They have nine stores in and around the park.

But GSMA is also a publisher of all things Smokies.

They are the authority on trails, flowers, birds, salamanders … of the Smokies. If you’re a hiker, you should have Hiking Trails of the Smokies. If you’re a birder, they have Birds of the Smokies in a small-format book.

GSMA has carried all my books including Forests, Alligators, Battlefields. But now they’re going to publish it as well. They might put a new cover, change the price, make all the decisions that a traditional publisher does.

And they’re going to distribute it as well. That is always be the biggest challenge with independent publishing.

So if you’re thinking that you might want a copy (or two or three), go to the Official Park Store and buy a copy from them. Or in a Smokies store, of course.

That’s buying local.

The Smokies – What happens at the border?

Every national park has boundaries. There’s no question when you’re in the park and when you’re out. Today’s Carolina Mountain Club hike showed this off at its best. Our hike went back and forth from “town” to “gown” or Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this case. Because of the park’s history, dwellings and farms can be right over the border.

Frozen weeds

Our hike started at the gate to Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, informally known as Purchase Knob. In the winter, the Science Center is closed-it is over 5,000 feet in altitude, so hikers have to walk about 1.5 miles to the Cataloochee Divide Trail. It was cold and windy and my fingers were frozen.

The land on which the Science Learning Center is located was owned by Kathryn McNeil. She and her family had built a summer home. But in the year 2000, she donated the house and 535 acres of land to the park. Now, school children and scientists use it as a base for scientific exploration.

CMC Hikers

But once we reached Cataloochee Divide Trail, we were in between two sets of trees and I felt a little warmer. I could at least find my fingers.

Cataloochee Divide Trail forms part of the eastern boundary of the park. If you have any doubts about that, you can see the fence separating the park from private land.

We reached a small cabin, called Taylor’s Turnaround. It used to be a shelter but now is a full-fledged cabin. We all thought that it belonged to the Swag, coming up, but no… We met the owner in the afternoon who said his property adjoined the Swag.

Now the Swag.

Drayton Robertson

Dan and Deener Matthews built this upscale lodging in the mountains. first as their summer home. Dan is the Rector Emeritus of Trinity Church, Wall Street in New York City.

The Swag is open from mid-April to the end of November. The rooms, with all meals, go from $625 to almost $900 a night. It’s a beautiful place for a honeymoon or anniversary or just to see the Smokies in comfort.

You can always figure out when you’re on private land, since there are always more signs. The most puzzling one is a memorial to Drayton Robertson. Look at the photo.  The memorial is no older than about two years. Any idea who this person was?

At the Swag

Cataloochee Ranch is the last piece of private property. It’s a ranch where you can ride horses, rent a cabin or just have lunch. Much of the top of Hemphill Bald has been saved as a conservation easement, guaranteeing that it can never be developed.

We then headed back.

By now, the sun was shining  and we stopped on the porch at Purchase Knob before walking the road to our cars.

If you want to see unbroken wilderness, this hike is not for you. But I love seeing the different ways that our land is being used.

Thanks, Laura F. for leading the hike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch the Solar Eclipse from Clingmans Dome!

I just got my four tickets to a once in a lifetime event – a total eclipse on Monday August 21, 2017.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is offering an opportunity to experience the total eclipse through a special, ticketed event at Clingmans Dome as well as informal eclipse viewing sites at Cades Cove and Oconaluftee. The park is partnering with NASA, Southwestern Community College, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to provide a special program with featured speakers and storytellers that help explain the science and cultural connection to this unique natural event at Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 feet in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and offers the unique possibility of seeing the moon’s shadow approaching across the landscape. The area will be closed to all public vehicle traffic to better accommodate a safe, memorable experience for about 1,325 ticketed participants.

Imagine, 1,325 of your closest friends.

The parking area will be converted into the special event site that will include a jumbotron screen for participating in a national NASA TV broadcast, telescopes, educational exhibits, and stage for special featured speakers.

“We are thrilled that the park lies within the narrow viewing band of this spectacular, natural phenomena,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. “I have great memories of the time I experienced a partial solar eclipse as a child and I am thrilled to view my first total eclipse from the top of the Smokies in the company of a passionate group of visitors.”

Tickets have just become available through www.recreation.gov for $30.00 each.

You must have a ticket to attend the event at Clingmans Dome. Participants will be shuttled to the site from Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC by coach bus. The Clingmans Dome tower itself will be reserved for the media and live broadcasting teams to share the experience with the widest audience possible. Special presentations and activities will take place during the approximately three-hour period in the afternoon when the sun will be partially and, for a brief time, totally obscured by the moon.

With a full schedule of entertaining and educational programs, park rangers and partners are working together to provide a worthwhile experience, even if the sun is obscured by clouds on the day of the event. There are going to be crowds. However, if you are patient, sociable, and flexible, this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a total eclipse from the heart of America’s most visited national park.

When I went online at Recreation.Gov, I only saw an option to leave from Gatlinburg. I couldn’t find the Cherokee option, so I clicked on it. If I have to go to Gatlinburg, so be it.